Cover Image: Of Women and Salt

Of Women and Salt

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Member Reviews

I enjoyed this generational tale of women from both Cuba and El Salvador. It's a slight novel and I zipped through it, but that in itself is its downfall. Gabriella Garcia packs an awful lot in to little over 200 pages - generational trauma, deportation, revolution, abuse, etc. Too much to cover anything in any real depth and I was left feeling like I didn't really know any of the characters. This could easily have been a 500+ page epic. The timeline is confusing, jumping from one narrator to another, from the same narrator but to a different time period. And she also switches from lyrical, poetic prose to sticato like prose quite often. But the writing is something I enjoyed. Ultimately I was a little disappointed in this as I wanted so much more, but I would definitely pick up a future novel from Garcia.
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Thanks to the publishers and NetGalley for the ARe-copy in exchange for this honest review.
This is a rich novel depicting the lives of several women affected by political decisions about immigration, abusive family relationships, poverty and betrayal. It is constantly surprising in its storytelling and is an inspiring story where women rise above their circumstances and show strength despite the oppression and injustice they face.
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This was a very unique book.
The writing style, the characters and the time changes made for a challenging read, and admittedly I struggled to get into and relate to the characters. Once I did however, it all seemed to click and it all came together to produce a very interesting story.
I enjoyed it, and it was a very impressive debut.
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Amazing story, one that you can’t put down, a fabulous story through time and generations and how we as women move and shape our lives together.
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🌿BOOK REVIEW🌿

Of Women and Saly by Gabriela Garcia 

“The woman reminds me of my mother because she looks breakable. But also immaculate.”

Of Women and Salt follows the lives of five generations of strong, fierce Cuban women grabbling with their own struggles. From 1866 cigar factories, to present day detention centres, Garcia explores the ways in which these women are bound even though many have never met. 

No stone is left unturned as this book explores the complexity of familial and romantic relationships, the consequences of Cuba’s political history, substance misuse and addiction, and immigration and deportation. 

I thought this was an incredible book that provided a perspective so often missing from the publishing industry! However, I think I would have linked just a bit more exploration of each woman.

CW// drug use, addiction, death, abuse (domestic, emotional, child, physical), confinement, trafficking, racism
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This is the type of book that should be right up my ally.  Multigenerational tale of women in a foreign setting yet I struggled to connect to the story and characters.  

I think it boils down to the writing style that made me feel this way.  It almost felt like short stories with a overarching narrative.  While this sometimes works for me (eg The Tsar of Love and Techno) here it tripped up my enjoyment.
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Of Women and Salt uses a non-linear format as it follows several women from Cuba and El Salvador. I admit I had my reservations about this writing style. For me, it's really important to be emotionally invested in character, and I worried this style wouldn't achieve that. Though now that I finished it, I have to say I'm glad I read it despite my reservations. The way author wrote this I came to care about every single point of view character in this book. 

I think part of the reason why it worked so well for me is the writing. The prose has a sort of simple elegance to it that is hard to describe. I have a very specific taste in writing and most of the authors who are well-known for their poetic prose don't do anything for me. Good writing, in my opinion, is not about how many metaphors you can pack into a single paragraph. Good writing, I think, is about adding depth to the story, and nailing down all the emotions. Garcia's writing does all that without coming off as pretentious.

I do, however, think that the plotline and various themes could use a bit more focus. I think there was more room to explore the dynamic of abuse. Especially in case of Carmen, I wish at the end she would reflect on how her childhood experience, worshipping an abusive father, had shaped her view of abuse and what is acceptable in relationships. But then again, the power of some books lies in the things they don't say, in the things that are hidden between the lines. 

In that sense, this book was simply powerful without any attempt at exaggeration.
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Happy Publishing Day to Of Women and Salt by Gabriela Garcia !

In just over 200 pages, some amazing voices of women unfold over several generations, leaving men on the edge of the narrative. 

Women who are flawed, who endure so much trauma and yet who truly love...

Motherhood is at its core and its depiction so accurate and raw at times. These quotes struck a chord with me:

"Think how even the best mothers in the world can't always save their daughters".

"Don't believe the mothers who tell you motherhood is vocation or sacrifice or beauty or anything on a greeting card. Motherhood: question mark, a constant calculation of what-if. What if we just gave up?" 

One last quote I felt so brilliantly summed up the harsh reality of this narrative: "There are no real rules that govern why some are born in turmoil and others never know a single day in which the next seems an ill-considered bet."

And Jeanette ❤️...

Powerful.

Thank you to @Netgalley and @panMacmillan/ Picador for this ARC in return for my honest review.
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Of Women and Salt is a beautiful and captivating story following five generations of Cuban women and a mother and daughter who migrated to Miami from El Salvador. Each chapter flows effortlessly between each women’s life, exploring the themes of immigration, mother and daughter relationships, addiction, abuse, loss, isolation and survival. If you are looking to read more about immigrant stories I would highly recommend this novel.

Thank you to NetGalley and Picador for an ARC copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review.
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Synopsis: The lives of the women of a Cuban family and a Salvadorian family become entangled when a woman is taken by ICE, leaving her daughter behind. 
•••
⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️/5
I really really enjoyed this book and raced through it. Garcia’s storytelling is beautiful and captivating, her characters real and interesting. This is an intergenerational story of women, strong and struggling, finding their way to safety, belonging, freedom - whatever that means to them. 

The story spans from 1866 Cuba to present-day Miami, sharing stories of a woman’s ancestors to relate her struggles with theirs. I’m a sucker for any book about mother-daughter relationships, and though every one in this book was strained in some way, I adored the focus on these relationships, how family legacy travelled down through the women of the family. A Spanish edition of Les Mis ties the women of the family together, and in it is written a quote - “Who are we, weakness? No, we are force.” These words inspire each generation of women in the family.

Of Women And Salt explores racism within Cuba and the US, what it means to have never met your family that live in another country and to be a tourist in the one where your ancestors come from, and the differences in privilege within the immigrant community that arises from documentation, class and education.
I’ve seen some really interesting debate around the representation in this book, primarily around the one black character and the two Salvadorian characters, how their stories of trauma primarily serve as character development opportunities for the white Cuban family. I actually didn’t necessarily find that - I was as invested in Ana and Gloria’s story as I was with Jeanette and her family. There are so many layers to this book, and whilst Garcia doesn’t at all shy away from showing privileged characters of all types of ethnicities, racist characters, the harshness of civil war, the traumas of deportation and trying to cross back into the US, she doesn’t fully explore them, as there’s so much in there. If anything’s clear from this book, it’s that these issues aren’t just black and white - the characters are dimensional, some privileged, some following a long history of racism within Cuba.
If you read this book, be sure to read more from @lupita.reads and here:
https://tastefulrude.com/of-women-and-salt-rubs-salt-in-the-wounds-of-the-black-caribbean/

•••
TW: drug addiction and abuse, sexual and physical abuse 
•••
Publishes in the UK: 15 April 2021
#OfWomenAndSalt
Advance digital copy from #NetGalley
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Likes
One of my favourite things about this book is the variety of women and storylines on offer. We range from 19th-century Cuba to present day Mexico and USA, stopping at cigar factories, detention centres, urban jungles and affluent neighbourhoods. I found that each story told brought with it different emotions and a level of understanding of what life must be like for an immigrant, be it legal or illegal. You would think that the narrative would be quite taxing to read, given the themes, however I found that this book was rather enjoyable to read and didn't feel overly sombre.


Dislikes
Personally, I feel that there is nothing that stands out as a dislike. Occasionally, upon reading a paragraph or page, I was left confused and didn't quite understanding the meaning or intent of the text. Although I did re-read certain excerpts of the text, I was still left slightly perplexed and didn't truly understand what the author was trying to portray, nor what she wanted me to see. Specifically, at the end of the novel, I felt a certain event was quite rushed, there was no natural build up or crescendo, it was simply added into a dialogue almost as an offhand comment. In these situations, I was certainly hung and was reeling to know more and why.


Final thoughts
Of Women and Salt is a truly wonderful piece for work. It is a beacon that allows us to see the choices women and mothers must make throughout their lives. How these women are expected to be silent, yet they stand up and demand that their stories are heard. To Gabriela Garcia; congratulations on a brilliant debut!

Thank you to NetGalley, Pan Macmillan and Gabriela Garcia for allowing me to review this book prior to publication.
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Trigger warnings: spousal abuse, child molestation, sexual violence, drug addiction.

*Of Women and Salt* is one of my favorite books of 2021, so far. This book focuses on the overlapping stories of immigration in Florida and overlapping Latinx identities. In particular, this book focuses on the difference between the Cuban community in Miami and other Latinx communities. In interviews Gabriela Garcia has given to *[Parade](https://parade.com/1188656/meganoneill/gabriela-garcia-of-women-and-salt-book-interview/)* and *[Vogue](https://www.vogue.com/article/gabriella-garcia-women-and-salt)*, she notes these themes as central to dismantling the myths around the "immigrant experience," and showing that the Latinx community(ies) is not a monolith. The Elián González episode of You're Wrong About also talks about Cuban immigration to Florida and the United States' "wet-foot-dry-foot policy," and it is worth a listen if you need some background. 

[You're Wrong About - Elián González](https://podcasts.google.com/feed/aHR0cHM6Ly9yb3R0ZW5pbmRlbm1hcmsud29yZHByZXNzLmNvbS9jYXRlZ29yeS9wb2RjYXN0L2ZlZWQv/episode/aHR0cHM6Ly9yb3R0ZW5pbmRlbm1hcmsub3JnLz9wPTExODUy?sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwjV5YbquebuAhVOrVkKHSLRAR8QkfYCegQIARAF)

The narrative starts in a cigar factory in Cuba in 1866 and then moves to Miami, Florida in 2014, setting up contrasts between the different women we follow throughout the book. Jeanette is a woman of Cuban descent whose relationship with her Cuban mother is under tension. Their already difficult relationship is tested when Jeanette's neighbor, Gloria is taken from her home and sent to a detention center and Jeanette takes in Gloria's young daughter, Ana. Carmen's attitude towards Gloria and Ana, undocumented immigrants from El Salvador, sets up the discussions comparing Cuban immigration in the past to more recent immigration to the US.

Throughout this book, we get to inhabit the perspectives of multiple generations of women and girls in the two families on which this book centers. Garcia's writing effortlessly moves between these different perspectives and gives them each a unique style. For example, when one of the main characters Jeanette is a teenager in 2002, the writing perfectly reflects the vibe of being a teenager in 2002. These subtle changes from each perspective helps the reader connect to each of the characters better. Garcia connects the different sections really well and the transitions never feel jarring. Absolutely masterful.

Other types of immigration are also discussed – for example, there a minor character from the US who moves to Mexico, but clearly does not see herself as an "immigrant," but rather an "expat." There is a German man living in Cuba who thinks of himself the same way. The differences between who is an "immigrant," vs. an "expat," changes the way people are treated. The discrimination against some characters who "immigrated," to Mexico (dumped there by US immigration), is another contrast in the "immigrant experience." Gloria and Ana are both deported early in the narrative and are dumped in Mexico and told by the US immigration authorities that they should "make their way back to El Salvador," from there, even though they have no resources to do so. 

Garcia also shows race and racism to be important in Latinx communities. This is a further complication to how Cubans and Cuban-Americans see themselves vs. "other" Latinx people:

> “But it isn’t as though Black Cubans fare better in Miami, where racism is polite, quiet. This is fact: In Miami, Cubans will scoff when you call the, Latino. “I’m not Latino, I’m Cuban,” they will say. By which they mean, *I am white, another kind of white you don’t know about, outsider*.”

For non-fiction titles on race and racism in the Hispanic Caribbean, see:

- [Prostitution, Modernity, and the Making of the Cuban Republic, 1840-1920](https://www.bookdepository.com/Prostitution-Modernity-Making-Cuban-Republic-1840-1920-Tiffany-Sippial/9781469608945) by Tiffany A. Sippial
- [The Mulatto Republic](https://www.bookdepository.com/Mulatto-Republic-April-J-Mayes/9780813061962) by April J. Mayes
- [Imposing Decency: The Politics of Sexuality and Race in Puerto Rico, 1870-1920](https://www.bookdepository.com/Imposing-Decency-Eileen-J-Suarez-Findlay/9780822323969) by Eileen J. Suarez Findlay
- [Reproducing Empire: Race, Sex, Science, and U.S. Imperialism in Puerto Rico](https://www.bookdepository.com/Reproducing-Empire-Laura-Briggs/9780520232587) by Laura Briggs

The ending is tied up nicely without feeling too neat. I was very satisfied and would absolutely re-read this book in the future. Five stars, would recommend.
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Of Women and Salt is the complex story of the survival. The story is told by strong women over centuries and their stories are at times hard to read. They have all faced violence and hardship and each woman chooses her own escape route. The relationships between the mothers and daughters are diverse, some are fragile but all of the mothers fight for what they feel is the best for their daughters. 

Some stories are easier to follow than others but overall this is a story definitely worth reading.

I was given a copy by NetGalley and the publishers in return for an unbiased review.
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*TRIGGER WARNING: MENTAL HEALTH ISSUES, DRUG ABUSE, VIOLENCE*

Of Women and Salt is a touching novel by Gabriela Garcia. It’s a whole female narration spanning decades across Central and North America.

The characters’ lives run parallel and sometimes overlap in singular and unexpected ways. We live with them in Cuba, Miami and Mexico – between the second half of the nineteenth century to 2018.

Generation after generation, from Maria Isabel to Dolores to Jeanette, we meet the women of a family split between two countries, facing all sorts of challenges and building strong characters for themselves.

Of Women and Salt is made of heart-breaking stories and challenging truths about being women, about immigration, mental health and drug abuse.
There’s the right balance of hope and sadness, you’ll feel angry and scared and you’ll remember these women for a long time after you put the book down.

A suggestive debut, I’m looking forward to new works from Gebriela Garcia and I will definitely recommend Of Women and Salt to everyone I know in the entire book community.
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A salted-wound of a novel. Garcia’s bruising, tender portrayal of female relationships never descends into saccharine sweetness. Pilar Quintana’s La Perra (translated into English as The Bitch) would be an excellent chaser to this stiff drink.
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Incredibly fast paced, beautifully written novel juxtaposed to such a dark and heartbreaking story of the experiences of 5 generations of Cuban women. 

Switching between the characters and different years, we learn all about the stories of these women who have been through it. I enjoyed the character and year switching, it was easy enough to figure out who was who and how they related, different characters and where we were at a time. It's important to remember the date though, just in case you're back or forward in time.

From a debut author all I can say is amazing, and I would read so much more.

It took a lot for me not to have a good sob at the end.

Content warnings for substance abuse and domestic abuse.

Thanks to NetGalley, Pan Macmillan and Gabriela Garcia for an eArc copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review..
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A tough story told through the eyes of four generations of women, from a Cuban family, and an El Salvadoran mother and daughter. 

The nonlinear story hops from woman to woman spanning Cuba, Miami and Mexico. 

The book focuses on mother and daughter relationships / separations and unspoken truths. Covering topics of immigration, politics, wealth and class we are exposed to many darker elements of life; addiction, domestic violence & sexual assault. 

It's a tough read in places (my heart went out to young Jeanette) but well written with a good pace. I'd definitely be keen to read any future books by the author. 3.5 stars, rounded up to 4 for the pretty cover art.
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A daughter's fateful choice, a mother motivated by her own past, and a family legacy that begins in Cuba before either of them were born

In present-day Miami, Jeanette is battling addiction. Daughter of Carmen, a Cuban immigrant, is determined to learn more about her family history from her reticent mother and makes the snap decision to take in the daughter of a neighbour detained by ICE. Carmen, still wrestling with the trauma of displacement, must process her difficult relationship with her own mother while trying to raise a wayward Jeanette.

While dealing with addiction, Jeannette tries to help her neighbour child who has been left behind when ICE detains her mother. She also is learning about her Cuban family history, while her mother Carmen is determined not to talk about it.  I really liked this story, despite it not being the usual type of book that I like. It’s definitely unique. The language is poetic; it flows beautifully. It’s a generational story. 

This is a first for me by the author and one I enjoyed and would read more of their work. The book cover is eye-catching and appealing and would spark my interest if in a bookshop. Thank you very much to the author, publisher and Netgalley for this ARC.
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I'm clearly an outlier with my negative review, so take all of this with a pinch of salt.

While I commend what the book sets out to do - tell the story and experiences of generations of different Cuban women (and a woman from El Salvador) who have emigrated to the US - this didn't make for an enjoyable reading experience for a number of reasons. The writing felt clunky, there is WAY too much going on, and the characters fell flat. If these things had been done well I might've been able to put up with the relentless misery that was the plot, but alas. Not for me!
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This starts a little slow which I find is often the case with translations, but a picture soon forms of a woman who works in a cigar factory where usually only men are employed. I immediately contrast this with the opera Carmen, where workers in a cigar factory are all women, but that's a different country. In Cuba, men do this work.

It is 1866 and Maria Isabel has few options in life. Marriage appears to be the practical course. But reading the books of Victor Hugo gets her husband on the wrong side of political unrest.

The story carries us through several generations of Cuban women and the hardships they have overcome through strength and perseverance. Though the description suggests it follows a family through five generations, it doesn't feel that linear. The jumps in time are too far or go backwards and new characters keep getting introduced so that it feels like a series of short stories about Cuban women facing different hardships.

Eventually familiar names occur and connections start to get made. Despite the slow start, I did find the stories drew me in. I cared what happened to the women and felt the despair of the detention center in Texas when one woman was held there, wondering what happened to her young daughter.

The compromises these women had to make to get by in a hostile world can be heartbreaking, yet show an incredible resilience against adversity.
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